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How to Use # Hashtags

Although hashtags are seen on nearly every social media channel and promoted on just about every TV show, they still confound many small business owners. Marketers everywhere are using them to amplify their brand awareness, but how can they benefit your small business?

Hashtag Basics

According to Wikipedia, “a hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character, #, to form a label.”

Hashtags help people identify what specific pieces of online content are about. By categorizing content, hashtags make it easier for readers to search for and find social media posts focused on the topics they have an interest in.

Where To Use Hashtags

Most major social media platforms give people the ability to search using hashtags to find relevant posts. They include:
• Twitter (the network that introduced us to hashtags)
• Facebook
• Pinterest
• Google Plus
• Instagram
• YouTube

When you click on a hashtag on these networks, you’re taken to a list of posts that have used that hashtag and presumably contain content related to the topic.

How can you use hashtags to drive more traffic to your social media posts? Here are a few ideas:

  • Include hashtags associated with keywords related to your industry, products, and services (for example: #jewelry or #lawncare) in your posts. First search on the social media platform to make sure you’ve selected a hashtag others are using to categorize posts. If you use a hashtag no one else is using, it won’t help you.
  • Use business and location hashtags together to help people find you. For example: #PortlandME #restaurants.
  • Create a hashtag for a special event you’re hosting, a marketing campaign, or your brand. But be careful when using hashtags for branding and promotional purposes. Look on Hashtags.org or Twubs.com and search on social networks and on search engines (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo) to see if a hashtag might already be in use by another company. Using a hashtag already associated with another brand will potentially confuse people, and you might find yourself in legal hot water. As legal protections for hashtags representing brands are a mounting concern, consider consulting an attorney who’s knowledgeable about social media before creating and using a hashtag to promote your business or event.

A Few Other Hashtag Tips

When using hashtags in your social media posts, keep these best practices in mind:

  • Don’t use too many hashtags at once. One or two is best. Three is OK, but don’t go beyond that. More makes posts look cluttered—and a bit desperate for attention.
  • Place hashtags at the end of your posts rather than mixed into the main message. Posts with hashtags in the middle of their sentences are harder to read because the flow of words is interrupted with the #.
  • Don’t use hashtags that aren’t relevant to the content in your post. You’ll disappoint—and maybe even anger readers—if you use a popular hashtag to draw attention to a post that has nothing to do with the topic.

#Finalthought

It may take some time and trial and error to learn to use hashtags effectively, but they’re worth the effort because they can help you expand awareness of your small business and draw more of your target audience to you.

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